How did Rob and Joel get started in testing? What was the world like back then… and is it different to today really?

How’s life


  • November was crazy!  I managed to be in the UK, Spain, Germany, Austria, and 4 different cities in the US.
  • 4 Testing conferences – QA&Test, Agile TD, Testing United, and ConTEST NYC.
  • Visited some amazing PractiTest’s customers.
  • Was hardly at home all month long 🙁
  • And if that wasn’t enough we had our Biggest OnlineTestConf ever!  4500+ subscribers. We did a satellite conference in Japan. In short amazing!!!


  • EuroSTAR was great.
  • Busy at work.
  • First draft of squirrel book almost there.
  • Busy as committee member for expoqa.

I’ve mentioned in a couple of my talks lately that I am what I like to call an accidental tester.  And to my joy and maybe even amazement, I find that many of the testers I talk to are also Accidental Testers themselves.

What is an accidental tester?  I assume some of you already understood it, maybe because you are so yourselves,  but for those of you scratching your heads. Accidental testers are not testers prone to Car Wrecks or spilling coffee in their laptops, although I’ve done a couple of those, they are testers who ended up in the profession by accident.  Without thinking about it. And many times without really knowing testing was “a thing” in the first place.

Some people think that becoming an accidental tester was something that could happen only back in the 90s and early 2000’s.  But maybe this is not the case.

So what we want to do today, is to review how we became testers in the first place.  How was the world back then, and then try to understand if the world today is so different from what it was back then.

Not sure where this chat is going to take us, but I have a feeling it will be fun – at least for us.

So let’s jump right in!

How did Rob get into testing?

  • After finishing a degree in media science I was determined to pursue a career in TV and film.
  • Not determined enough as I took a temp job for a local software company as a tester. They were building school admin software in an old school language called omnis.
  • It was here that I learned that not all developers are created equal. Some of the team needed little testing as they coded well and tested their own stuff. When I received the software from others it wouldn’t even compile.
  • I soon got bored with the tech – you have to bare in mind- this was the earlier 2000s and the Internet was really taking off.
  • So I moved to a company called Coda which later became financial force building their new online accounting software.
  • This was a great job, met some cool people and really learned the value of working closely with designers and developers. We were asked to contribute right at the start – which was unheard of for many companies. Loved it.
  • Then I moved from Leeds, in the north of England to Winchester in the south where I took a job as scalability lead at sophos. I knew nothing about scaling and performance testing but I did learn it quickly. But more importantly, I learned my own limitations and learned that I needed to surround myself with others who had skills I did not.
  • It’s also where I learned how to game metrics, what leadership is really about, how to embrace others diversity and how to write test documentation that nobody would ever read.
  • I got bored and decided to take a higher paid job in defence. I got a job, it took 3 months to get security clearance and then I lasted just 8 days in this company. 3 of which were spent trying to work out who to hand my notice in to.
  • After this I landed a test job at Imeta where I learned a lot about exploratory testing and designing clever test automation with developers – after all who better to write automation than the dev, who better to design it than the tester.
  • I also learned about agile and consultancy. Loved it. It’s also when I started the social tester blog and speaking in the circuit.
  • But the recession hit the company hard and I moved on NeeVoiceMedia where I started as a tester but quickly moved to a management role to support the dev director. 
  • We took the release process from 14 months to weekly, scaled agile, grew the team 💯 year on year and opened an office in Poland.
  • We did DevOps, agile Yada Yada. After achieving great results in dev I took a sideways step to HR – which I did to see if I could release business agility but also to differentiate myself on the market. 
  • I then quit, set up my own business helping companies release agility through management and HR initiatives and I’ve never looked back.

How did Joel get into testing?

  • I basically thought testing would be my student job.
  • I started working when I was 10 years old, so when I got to Israel to study I waited one year (until I got some spare time from learning Hebrew and understanding more where I was and how to move) and I started looking for a job.
  • I tried to get a job as an industrial engineer, but my Hebrew skills were really lacking and so I got 2 or 3 rejections before starting to consider working as a Bartender at a local pub.  That is when a cousin of a friend came to visit our apartment and offered me a job in his startup as a tester…
  • I did not know what testing was, did not know how to do testing at all, and I was sure this would be a temp job until I got enough Hebrew to work as an Industrial Engineer.
  • When I looked for resources as a tester, I hardly found some books.  Internet was only getting started, no communities to speak off, podcasts had not been invented yet, YouTube was not even an idea…
  • Then I thought High Tech and Software in general was a good place to be, but I wanted to be in something like Product Marketing.
  • It was only after attending my first conference (Star East) that I understood what testing was really about and I decided to make it my career.

What was different back then?

  • There was a lot less of an idea what testing was supposed to do.
  • We did not even know a lot about how the software development process was supposed to look.
  • Conferences were a lot worse!
  • Testing was a lot less technical, tools were sparse, limited and really really expensive.
  • Internet was literally learning to crawl back then, no communities, podcasts, blogs, etc.
  • Agile?!  O God no!  Projects were WF at best and complete chaos many times. They lasted 6, 9, 18 months.

What’s still the same?

  • Testing is still a service to be performed.  We do not provide ANY value on our own, but just like salt or sugar, we allow value to be achieved in ways that could not be achieved without us.
  • No one outside of testing really knows what testing should do, and so we need to figure out on our own many times.
  • Quality is not the responsibility of testing, but many people erroneously think it is.
  • Not everyone will like being a tester, but for some people it is the most exciting job in the world.
  • Tester still likes to talk about the same problems that many of us have already solved, and written about. Management is creating the same problems as they always did.


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